News and Commentary on Gainesville and the World | Updated Daily

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

DeLaney to Citizens: Screw You

It sure didn't long for Paula DeLaney to prove me right. Her first big vote as a new Alachua County commissioner was to switch the county's plan to make Southwest 24th Avenue a two-lane road into a four-lane road, at the behest of developer Clark Butler, who needs the extra lanes to gain state approval for a massive expansion to Butler Plaza.

As noted previously on the blog, the project has always been controversial. Butler and other developers have been asking for a four-lane road so they will have the road capacity to build large commercial and housing developments in the relatively undeveloped area west of 34th Street and north of Archer Road.

However, a group of citizens working with local elected officials devised a plan for the area that would develop it into a walkable, bikable student village with student housing connected via a grid of two-lane roads with bike lanes, bus bays and sidewalks. This was done at a series of public meetings in which all views were heard and officials from the city and county commissions considered.

As part of that plan, 24th Avenue, currently a dirt road leading west from 34th Street to Southwest 42nd Street, would be part of the two-lane road grid.

That, however, does not provide enough road capacity to handle the additional traffic that would be created by Butler's desired expansion to his already massive Butler Plaza. So, through access and influence gained by giving large campaign contributions to state and federal officials, he got some federal funding for the road project that requires it to be a four-lane road.

And, more importantly, he helped get DeLaney elected. She replaces Penny Wheat, who retired. Wheat was the architect of the student village concept and was one of the three commissioners who voted for the two-lane proposal for Southwest 24th Avenue, which was already proceeding through the engineering phase. DeLaney, elected last November, agreed to revisit the issue so she could switch the vote.

Many progressives and environmentalists supported DeLaney during her campaign, and now they must be smarting. Butler will likely get his expansion, which will make the traffic nightmare that is Archer Road into a traffic night terror from which we will be hard pressed to wake. The student village concept will die, as his project will eat up the road capacity.

Worse, DeLaney's switcheroo is all that is wrong with government. The rich (Butler) become the powerful who can use their money to manipulate the system. The citizens who worked so hard on the student village concept are right to lose faith in the system, because all it took was a developer pulling strings to make the citizens' efforts irrelevant.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

posting as: mike amish
Thanks Colin for the insight into this. I surely do appreciate your reporting. Want to blog on PATV sometime? e-mail me:

12:02 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home